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So many things can keep you from seeing your loved ones in person, from busy schedules to long distances to a rather unexpected pandemic. Fortunately, thanks to modern technology, the people we miss are often only a phone call or text message away. But if you’re someone who’s more prone to typed out messages than verbal ones, you may want to reconsider. According to science, if you want to feel more connected to the people you’re talking to, you should call them instead of texting.
A new study, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, found that communication interactions that included voice, like a phone call or video chat, created stronger social bonds than communication through typing, like text messaging or email.
In the study, researchers used various experiments to gauge connectedness. In one, they asked 200 people to make predictions about what it would be like to reconnect with an old friend by email or by phone and then assigned people at random to do one or the other. Although people anticipated that a phone call would be more awkward, hearing someone’s voice actually made the experience better.
“People reported they did form a significantly stronger bond with their old friend on the phone versus email, and they did not feel more awkward,” study co-author Amit Kumar, an assistant professor of marketing at the McCombs School of Business, said in a statement.
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In another experiment, the researchers had strangers connect by either texting, talking over video chat, or talking using only audio. They found that both forms of voice communication—whether video or audio only—made the strangers feel significantly more connected than when they communicated via text.
Sabrina Romanoff, a Harvard trained clinical psychologist based in New York City, says people tend to text or email instead of calling because of convenience, as they see it as a controlled form of communication where they can “correspond information exactly in the way they intend without unexpected additions by the other person.”
Romanoff says that in reality, texting can make it hard to determine the true meaning behind a conversation. “A phone call is actually more convenient when considering the net effects of the message,” she explains. “Each party is more present, and therefore, able to gauge the meaning behind the content without ruminating on the endless possible meanings behind words and punctuation.”
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